Get a competitive advantage with better software integrations

April 4, 2024 By    

The latest list of LP Gas Top Retailers account for about 40 percent of annual U.S. propane sales by volume.

The remaining 60 percent of the market is served by almost 4,000 propane marketers. That means the average top 50 marketer sells around 90 million gallons, and the remaining 4,000 retailers each sell about 1.5 million gallons.

If you are among the 4,000 (we are), how do you stand out among the other 3,999, and how do you compete with the goliaths in your market? Integrated technology may be your slingshot.

In its simplest terms, software integration is the process of connecting different software applications. For example, if you use monitors, it might be helpful if the monitor data is shared with your customer management software (CMS). If your customers have an app that gives them their tank level from the monitor, it might be helpful if they could place an order on that app and have the order data seamlessly flow to your CMS.

All of this seems obvious, but we are aware of at least one app that permits the customer to place an order but requires your CSR to manually enter that order into your software and create a delivery ticket.

Data sharing

Software integration is important, but the quality of the integration is even more important. The frequency of data sharing may be the most important.

For example, a customer portal on your website that shares data with your back-office software might accommodate self-service scheduling. Imagine the ability to have prospective customers sign up for service and schedule their installation and gas check when it’s convenient for them, often in the evening after your office is closed. Real-time data sharing accommodates that.

The frequency of data sharing is important when customers place orders or make payments on your portal or with your app. If your customer calls you in the afternoon to follow up on an order they placed that morning, imagine how embarrassing it might be to explain that your app or portal shares data only once a day after hours.

Do you receive notifications when there has been a delivery to a customer (their monitor level goes up), but there’s no delivery ticket in your software? Most monitors obtain their readings from your tank’s physical gauge. What happens when the gauge is stuck? Are you able to get reports that show whether a tank level hasn’t moved or hasn’t moved enough over a given period of time? We long for a report like this because our only, and very few, auto-fill runouts happen when the physical gauge sticks or malfunctions.

Customer management

Imagine a CMS with the following integration features:

  • A customer app and portal with real-time integration to the CMS that would offer self-service scheduling.
  • Integration with phone and website chat that captures the date and time of a customer interaction, enabling a CSR to look up a call recording or chat record while interacting with the customer. This would improve the customer experience and increase first-call resolution.
  • Fully functional email and text communications, or integration with third-party providers.
  • Integration with more comprehensive, dynamic routing software.
  • Comprehensive integration with monitors on customer tanks, bulk tanks and bobtails that enables temperature-corrected inventory levels, reporting and demand forecasting.
  • Integration with parts suppliers for price updates and purchase orders.
  • Integration with credit reporting agencies to provide data in METRO-II format.

These integrations would be in addition to integrations commonly found in CMS, such as general ledger integration and truck/tablet communication.

A lot of noise has been made about AI, and this writer is among the loudest noisemakers. But we would be a lot more excited to see more breadth and depth in software integration, with the CMS forming the core.

Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. Contact him at

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